In the Studio

Art and Comedy as Balm

Hi All,

Here is the latest from my easel. It coincides not only with my decision to join the stable of artists over at Roberts Gallery on Yonge St. (Downtown. Big time, Ma!), but also with a most bizarre political episode south of us.

Somehow, since high school,  whenever Yonge St. is mentioned I can’t help but picture John Candy, Joe Flaherty and Andrea Martin walking down Yonge St. in a scene from SCTV’s ‘Garth and Gord and Fiona and Alice (a Canadian film)’. These honest and naive east coasters just can’t make it in Toronto! Classic.

Comedy is the best thing I can offer on a strange, already surreal day like today. The jesters can save us! Comedy is God. Art is comedy. Comedy is art. Art is God. Or whatevs….

While I’m sharing yonge St. themed classics from SCTV Here is another gem featuring the longest street ever. Watch ‘Midnight Cowboy 2’. John Candy and Eugene Levy stroll down Yonge St. as a wanna be hustler and pimp pairing. It is completely classic and can’t fail to brighten your day.

And here is my offering. Hopefully it won’t make you laugh.

this was the hottest night of the summer

A commissioned painting of the 401 building.

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Commissioned Oil painting in progress by painter, David Marshak

The Versimillidude – Art Speak and Pretense

Greetings,

Time for what has now become a bi-monthly blog post. I intend to blog more frequently if not weekly, but Julia/Julia this is not.

I was recently talking to a friend about the time when I was delivering a piece to a gallery in the west end of TDot for a trial run. My work was anomalous and I knew it. It became clear to me just how much my work stuck out when the gallery assistant sat me down to ask me some questions about my practice and her first words were “why such versimillitude?”. I was not taken back as I knew what artistic neighborhood I was sticking my painty toe into. I have no idea what my response was, but I do know what I wish I had said;…

[cue dramatic theme]

[cue the voice of god]

“Because… I am… the Versimillidude.”

Seriously though. I do not mind the question.

I have almost always painted in a highly representational manner. Still, I would urge anyone to stop short of calling my work ‘photo-realism’. I am occasionally in awe of such work, but often it leaves me cold and I actually don’t aspire to the sheerest levels of verisimilitude (easy to remember this word and its meaning ‘cos it sounds like you’re saying ‘very-similar-to’ or even better ‘very-similar-dude’). You still somehow have to incorporate some soul. I can’t say whether or not my work has soul, it is not for me to decide – I mean, sad clown paintings have soul don’t they? Elvis on black velvet? I dunno.

Again, there is nothing wrong with the question. Usually, the whole idea comes up not in the form of a question, but rather as part of a more pedestrian statement that always begins with ‘Wow, it looks like photo’ or even better, ‘it looks like a picture‘. I repeat, there is nothing wrong with that remark in and of itself. It can always be taken as a compliment (which is surely how it is meant).

It is hard to talk about though, in part because I have a problem with art speak. I not like it in a pram, I do not like it with some ham… Um… I do not like it on a peak.. I do not like art speak. I enjoy talking about art and the practice and really anything related, but I cannot navigate a conversation in actual ‘art speak’. For anyone who who knows what I’m talking about, you are either good at it and enjoy it, or you suck at it and usually go to the bar when a deeply intellectual, ‘art speak’ conversation begins, so you can begin to drown your anxiety with good simple whiskey.

So, what is a good example of this dreaded art speak that I… speak of? Grants and proposals. Oh yes. Have you ever read over a long arts proposal?  No, you haven’t, because unless you are getting paid to do it, you cannot sit through the endless pages of pretentious drivel cloaked in the duplicitous garb of cultural import. Someone wants to paint or do installations or clip mousetraps onto their digits or worse and they want money to do it. But instead of plain sentences and direct meanings, the language must be very specific. it must drip with pretentiousness. I can’t even illustrate it for you with words because it is beyond my capability. You need to read some of the more high minded art criticism to even get a sniff of what I mean.

None of this means that there is no validity in such language and dissection. I am not so much condemning as standing apart (at the bar, having a whiskey) and listening  in wonder when artists and makers and critics begin to converse with each other about the arts. Chests are beaten and plumages displayed in these intellectual jousts… But, what the hell are they talking about? Is it important? Is it just time-wasting-fluff? I can’t always tell.

Maybe I’m just jealous.

Maybe… But what I do know is that nothing feels like doing good work. When you are striking the iron and it is hot. When the muse is riding your back like a crazed monkey. That is the whole dealio. Any amount of dissection can’t do any better in explaining it than I just did. It is ineffable. So, while I’m glad that art writing exists and I’m glad that there are those who can actually write grants or proposals and get some money to fill a gallery with red shovels, I will keep painting away while not really being able to clearly express exactly why I paint what I do and why I paint it like I do. Hopefully, someone, somewhere will write something about it that I will not understand.

Best of the season to everyone,

The Versimilidude.

P.S. Here is a commissioned piece I am working on.. It looks like a picture! And for good measure, a photo of our happy winter chickens.

Commissioned Oil painting in progress by painter, David Marshak Chicken Coop at the home of oil painter, David Marshak

 

 

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landscape painting of Grey County Road with moody clouds

Two paintings of roads

 

Hi All,

It has been almost three years since we moved here to Kimberley and while I have done several paintings of the area, I always feel like I am not giving my own backyard the attention it deserves in my studio. There are so many incredible spots up here and now that our almost two year old twin girls are walking with confidence we can get finally start getting out as a family and really exploring some of our local wonders. There are waterfalls and ridges that beckon and I plan on heeding that beckon and mining this landscape for gold, but for now I am doing a smaller, quicker series of local roads.

I love painting roads. I used to always feel compelled to paint cars on them, coming or going- leaving a red streak as they go or slightly blinding you as they approach. It seemed to add an element of ghostly mystery to a piece. Who are they? Where are they going?  There is a built-in narrative… Interesting that of late I seem more compelled to portray an empty road. Maybe getting married and having three children has left me with less longing to see others on the road? I dunno. Hmm.

Anyways, here are a couple pieces that I have been able to squeeze out of my studio between cooking dinners, doing dishes and hanging with the children.

Take it easy and don’t freak out. Spring is coming.

D

 

Landscape painting of Grey County road and sunset landscape painting of Grey County Road with moody clouds

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paintbox in the arctic

Paintings for Cheese; The Art Barter

 

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Hello,

This time I thought I might delve briefly into the trade, or the barter. Very popular among artists, craftspeople and tradespeople is the barter. It is ridiculously self explanatory, and yet I will explain it. I give someone a painting and they give me, wait for it, something else that I want. I have traded art for, most recently, cheese. Lots of cheese. Oodles of it. I still have cheese coming to me from this glorious trade and the cheese merchant now tells me that he wants something more urban for his next piece. And in return, I will have more cheese. Way more cheese. Other notable trades have been for a set of drums, two amazing handmade guitars (one acoustic, one electric) that have changed the way I play, car maintenance, an actual car, a top of the line wood stove that is the center of our patently adorable rural lifestyle, a pair of overalls made of coyote skins made by a talented and very skilled seamstress, a matching set of seal and wolf fur hat and mittens by a leading Inuit designer, several fares aboard an oceangoing vessel bound for far flung arctic regions, and  of course other artists work, which is perhaps the best trade of all. There are probably other trades that I cannot now recall.

In any case, my life has been enriched by others openness to trade. It is an amazing thing to participate in a transaction that ostensibly has nothing to do with money (other than  the obvious perceived or actual value of goods traded). To get something that is valuable to you and in return provide something that someone else feels is valuable to them is the perfect back and forth. No muss, no fuss. No paperwork, no bill, no receipt. Sweet.

I hope that I can continue to engage in this kind of micro economy. It feels like a healthy thing to do in an age of rampant consumerism and runaway capitalism. It even feels hopeful somehow to think that another way is possible, even if on a tiny scale. It bodes well and who does not like things to bode well?

There it is. My blog post about barters. Hope you liked it.

I should add that I also really, really, um, like, really like getting paid for my paintings too. It is nice to put food on your family. Smiley face icon.

D

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A Christmas present

Super quick post.

Here is a painting I did for Sarah’s father for Christmas. It is a young Jack with his father… Somewhere in time. I’ll take a better picture soon and add it to the images on my website. I really had fun doing this one.

An old black and white photo that I blew up and painted in paynes grey and titanium white

Merry belated Christmas. Here’s to a good New Year ahead for all of us.

D

 

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New commission goes home

 

 

 

 

Hello Readers (thank you for reading!),

I just finished this commissioned painting yesterday and today it went off to its new home down the road at our friend’s house. We play music together regularly, so I’ll actually be able to visit this one, hopefully for years to come. It’s a view from their beach house on lake Huron. I felt good about this piece. It was challenging for sure. Near the end of working on it I kept wanting to see the wave in the foreground finish its rush to the beach. It’s like there’s an eternal tension created in the expectation of release. Tonally, it was tough as well. Really subtle pre-storm tones of green and purple. A bit of a brain melter trying to find the right balance.

Commissions can be uncomfortable. You have to lay down some ground rules so that it’s not like working with a creative team with color adjustments for matching couches and so on. I can’t and won’t deal with that kind of client. They need another type of painter. And even though in twenty years I’ve never had a piece returned or refused, you always wonder if it might happen. Knock on art wood. Anyways, it’s always good to see the faces of people who you know really, really like the piece they’ve ended up with. A few have cried. I kinda felt bad. But not really.

D

 

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prints, oil paintings, limited edition

Prints are now available… For Christmas…

Hi All,

Well, the Yuletide has risen and  is now lapping at our doorsteps, threatening to flood again. I am a prototypical, pusillanimous procrastinator when it comes to holiday purchases. Oh, how I revel in my disdain for the bargain seeking masses who crowd shopping malls and drive home with trunks packed full of legitimately gotten booty. Of course, then, in the 11th hour, when I realize with sickening certainty that I have no gifts for anyone, I find myself joining the zombied Christmas hordes. I rub their scent all over me to disguise myself and descend into gift land, wandering aisles, picking up this and that putting them down for that and this. Finally, shoulders shrugging and patience imploding, the purchases are made and the contrary holiday cherubs start careening around my head again in joyous approval of my support for one or another faceless corporate entity that steals souls of children in faraway lands where Christmas is… not really a thing.

Every so often though, I find myself in a different kind of transaction. I either give a painting or buy some art that I can afford and give that in lieu of the store bought escape clause. I can’t always do this, because as I like to tell my soon to be clients when they balk at my prices, “I can’t afford my own work”.

But now you can afford my work. So can I! Prints! They are here and they are limited.. So act now! This Christmas give the gift that will sit on your wall for a very long time. They are archival. They are on fine art paper. They are giclee and they are ready to frame and come with a certificate of authenticity. And again, they are limited. Go to the ‘shop’ section of my website and find the conveniently Noel timed prints of various size and price. Merry Christams time everybody.

XO
D

prints, oil paintings, limited edition

Archival giclee prints now available.

 

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One Night Only Art Show… For the children.

I was lucky enough to go to summer camp from grade 6 to grade 11. The Durham Board of education ran a ten day art camp in the wilds of Haliburton and it was amazing. It was also affordable because it was so short. It gave me a window into a world that I barely knew existed, save several educational viewings of ‘Meatballs’, the classic Bill Murray/Chris Makepeace buddy movie (which, as it turns out was filmed at the very camp of which I now speak/write).  The art camp took over Camp White Pine before ‘real’ camp season started in earnest. What made it so special, I think, was that everyone there, from grades 6 to 12, was art interested and selected for this great experience for their artistic achievements in school. Art classes of all sorts ran all day interspersed with sports. I did some cartooning and then went sailing, I sketched in the woods and then popped over for some archery… Tennis, then sculpting. Awesome, right?

I ended up a being a counselor a la Meatballs, and although our particular yearly camp life was short, it was fun. Damn fun. Super damn fun. I remember looking at the names scrawled on the walls of the cabins, repeated in different color pens, sometimes marking several years of attendance. Those were the real campers. They were there for a whole summer. Every summer. That seemed amazing to me. It was like an unseen  subculture had revealed its existence to me through these yearly notations on the walls. I was and am glad to have had the experience of summer camp. I loved everything about it and it was part of shaping me.  Summer camp may seem like a luxury, and it certainly is in a lot of ways, but it shouldn’t seem inaccessible for children of less moneyed families.

For several years running I have been a part of a very cool art show that helps to send young campers to the incredible Taylor Statten Camps in Algonquin Park. This years show is this Thursday night. If you can make it out, please come and help us give some deserving youths an experience of a lifetime. I have some new works appearing for the first time here. Here is one of ’em.

Are you ready for the summer?

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‘Bowles Bluff Road, Beaver Valley’, 48″x36″, oil on board

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Studio time(s)

Hello,

The air is cool and the leaves are changing, dammit. Although our wood pile is full and we are ready for the plummeting temperatures there is still a delusional  desire to do summer things. I swam only thrice this whole summer despite our near proximity to various bodies of water. The trip to the zoo never happened. The new chicken coop is still unfinished. But, the studio needs me more than the chickens do. I must lay some paint eggs and bring home some bacon.

So, Sarah and I have devised a practical set of of guidelines for plotting our respective studio time. We take turns getting up early with the three wee ones so that the other may sleep in every second morning. After a good sleep we can take the option of heading into the studio for the rest of the morning and then switch up at noon so the other has the afternoon for working. It seems to be a working version of sanity for the moment. I was up early this a.m. and after diaper changes, feeding everyone and making sweet, sweet coffee for myself I basically just set about trying to keep various shrieks and hollers to a minimum so Sarah can try to get the aforementioned extra sleep.

The mornings might be early but they are also hilarious and truly adorable. This morning, one of our twin girls, Hanneli, wanted every piece of wardrobe available to her to be actually on her. She strutted about  with a pair of tights, swim shorts over that, two shirts, and a raincoat. One running shoe was all she needed as footwear, apparently. On top of everything she put on a costume dragon cape and gave me the pleasure of watching her parade around with a very proud look on her face. Ineke, however, went the other way and tolerated no shirt whatsoever despite the cool morning air. She wanted to paint while Hanneli walked (yup, both walking like orangutans… no talking yet, just shrieks of varied intonation and volume). It is a couple to a few hours of important, tight family time. I truly feel sorry for families who cannot do this due to the time constraints of their careers. It is one of the trade offs that are apparent to every artist who is blessed enough to get by on what they make with their art. Would I like a bigger bank account and a dependable paycheque? Hellsya, but like I said, it is a trade off and after almost twenty years I’m used to the schizophrenic ups and downs of art based income.

So, back to the studio – I have a couple of new pieces on the go. One is of a mountain descending to the sea in Greenland and the other is of a local piece of ground, Bowles Bluff. We have back to back studio tours rapidly approaching and the amount of work available for  viewing is not exactly voluminous. In fact, I think I’ll be postponing a show I had planned for mid-winter as I just can’t foresee a full gallery worth of work materializing before then. This is no lament, but rather an extrapolation. Just the facts, Ma’am. Another big solo show will come when the time is right.

Right now I am in the middle of the big sky in the Bowles Bluff piece. I seem to have developed a habit of painting a tone or two too dark on my first pass which necessitates a re-paint. Frustrating but very learny. A little more preparation and forethought is obviously required. Still, it has been a while since I’ve done some big poofy clouds and I am reminded that there is nothing that is easy about capturing the floating elegance of a good cloud.

Have my thoughts meandered enough for this post? Before I start lamely talking about about what brand of paint I use, I’ll sign off.

Again, check out my new site featuring my drawings and doodles, https://marshakian.wordpress.com/.

And prints are still coming. Soon.

Be well.

D

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The Hiatus

The Hiatus

July has been hiatus month for me. My wife Sarah is an artist as well and I gobbled up the lion’s share of studio time these past few months getting work done for my show with Harold Klunder (at Flesherton Art Gallery until late Aug.). It is coming on three weeks of no painting and the various aspects of hiatus-ing, both pro and con are becoming evident.

Things get done outside of the studio. Not by me, except for a lawn mow or two. I mean, by Sarah. So far she has built a huge bookshelf (it had been nearly two years without seeing many of our books), finished our taxes ( I am unable to face them), weeded the vegetable garden and designed herself a new website. Oh, and she weened the girls too. No big deal. So, my hiatus has certainly provided opportunities for domestic advancement. And of course, I have been able to spend days with all three children in the yard and lolling about lazily in the living room. Good things.

But what does the hiatus do for the artistic mind? For some it would be torture. I know a few painters to whom the hiatus is anathema. Whether due to obsession or work ethic, some artists simply cannot take breaks unless forced upon them by geography or tragedy. For me, there is refreshment in stepping away. I can see what I’ve done over the past months and reflect on it in a different state of mind. I can critique my work with less anxiety. It is done, there will no more strokes. I can let go and let the critical chips fall where they may.

Is it always refreshing though? Not necessarily. It can also be vexing. If a break lasts long enough, I start to forget what it is like to paint every day and begin to feel alienated from the whole process. It becomes apparent again that it is actual work – that from beginning to end, a painting is a series of decisions and commitments. I am not complaining. I love working in my studio. I love the process. But for those who think that every artist has a dreamy floating-on-a-cloud kind of day every day in the studio? I wish.

One of the hardest things about returning to the studio after hiatus-ing is the kick-start back into action. After twenty years (woah) of doing this, I still feel like a nervous child approaching my rolling palette table. What colors? What to paint? Can I still mix? I need more reference material. The doubts tend to creep in whilst on hiatus. What if I suck? What if I always sucked and I’ve just been lucky to get by? Will my fraud be discovered? Is it over? Shall I apply for a server position and polish my manners to mine for better tips?

No. Not a chance.

I don’t know what I’m going to paint yet when I get back in to the flow. I don’t know what I want to paint. I have boards waiting. They look at me with their eager, burnt sienna toned surfaces as I walk into the studio and head for the chest freezer to get hot dog buns. They wonder what the hold up is. What’s up, dude?

I’m coming, I’m coming. I’ll be there soon and we’ll see what happens. Ok? Geez.

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The servant waits while the master baits.

 

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